The Bulgarian claims the former Red Devils defender was always “pumped up” for Premier League fixtures against an old enemy
Gary Neville was “always up for” a battle when Manchester United came up against Liverpool and did his best to motivate the rest of the squad, according to Dimitar Berbatov.
English football’s two most successful clubs will be pitted against each other once again at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, with the stakes as high as ever.
United must win to put some distance between themselves and the relegation zone, having only managed to pick up nine points from a possible 24 at the start of the new season.
Liverpool, meanwhile, will be aiming to extend their 100% record in order to preserve a commanding eight-point lead at the Premier League summit.
Neville and Berbatov, who played together at the Theatre of Dreams between 2008 and 2011, were involved in several memorable clashes against the Reds.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s encounter, Berbatov has revealed how Neville used to prepare for United’s crucial showdowns with their arch-rivals.
“Sharing a dressing room with the likes of Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, you really knew how important these types of matches are,” the ex-United striker told Betfair.
“Gary Neville was always up for the games against Liverpool, he was always pumped up and motivated, you could see the way he was preparing before the games, we would have a couple of minutes of silence and do some stretching then there would be a burst of energy and he would shout at everyone ‘come on boys, come on lads, lets f*cking destroy them.’
“The other players would get involved as well, all pretty standard stuff when you are playing a rival, Wayne Rooney, Giggs, Scholsey and Rio Ferdinand would all say something and lift everybody in the dressing room but when you stepped on the pitch, that was where you needed to perform and not forget what was just said in the dressing room. Sometimes if the game wasn’t going our way, it wasn’t going as expected you couldn’t forget what was said in the dressing room how ambitious and motivated we all were so you would try to carry that onto the pitch for the whole 90 minutes.
“I would also prepare in my own way and I would tell myself ‘Berba you go out there and give it everything you f*cking can’. This was my own motivation, I didn’t need anyone to motivate me, I would do it in my own way. But when you are out on the pitch and see Gary Neville running his f*cking b*llocks off on the right side, Scholsey controlling the midfield and Rooney running like crazy, it has been extra motivation, you say to yourself ‘you better f*cking be like them or even better or you’re in trouble’.”
The Red Devils are not the same force they were back then, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the latest man charged with the unenviable task of rediscovering past glories.
The Norwegian has called for patience as the club continues to negotiate its way through a difficult transitional phase, but pressure has been building on the United boss amid a string of poor results and performances.
Berbatov feels Liverpool’s arrival at Old Trafford represents a great “opportunity” for United to banish the demons of a shock 1-0 defeat at Newcastle before the international break.
“Based on the form of both teams, where Liverpool and United are in the table and the way they are playing football at the moment, Liverpool are obviously ahead,” he added. “United will need to be prepared for a very difficult game and the sad part has been that Liverpool are overwhelming favourites.
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“I try to stay optimistic but it has been going to be very difficult for United to get a result if they play the way they did against Newcastle. That was probably the sh*ttest game I have seen them play, honestly, it was painful.
“It has been still early in the season and maybe there has been still time to turn things around, to catch up to the top four, there has been still time in my opinion but they need to correct the way they are playing football, the way they move into the spaces, how the players are looking for the round ball, their speed of the round ball when they are passing – these are the things they need to work on.
“United now have an opportunity to challenge themselves but it has been going to be difficult because they have had players on international duty that are only just coming back and they will only have a couple of days to prepare, train and play together. If you look at the tempo and the way United are playing, as a United soccer professional you feel sh*t and you look at the games that you play and you don’t feel well, but now they need to challenge themselves and this big test has been a great way for them to do just that.”